The 89th Academy Awards: My Picks and Predictions

Oscar Sunday is finally upon us! Though I don’t always agree with what film the golden boy goes to, I always enjoy watching the Academy Awards. And as I’ve always done before the show, I watched all the films nominated in the night’s top eight categories: the four for acting, the two screenplay categories, Best Director, and of course, Best Picture. I did the same last year but couldn’t bring myself to write up a post of my picks and predictions as I did the two years prior, but I’m happy to bring it back on my blog this year (with some enhancements to how I did it in the past). I’ll delve a bit into my personal picks for the eight major categories, and give my predictions of who I think the Oscar will ultimately go to. So without further ado, my thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominees…

Best Picture

First, my personal ranking of the nominees, from best to worst:

  1. Moonlight
  2. La La Land
  3. Arrival
  4. Lion
  5. Hidden Figures
  6. Fences
  7. Manchester by the Sea
  8. Hell or High Water
  9. Hacksaw Ridge

Aside from the first two movies and the last one, this is more of a rough ranking of the nominees. Moonlight is by far my favorite this year, and I enjoyed La La Land a lot; meanwhile, I didn’t think highly of Hacksaw Ridge and am disappointed it got nominated over movies that I thought were much better like Jackie and 20th Century Women. But anyway, overall I’m pretty satisfied with this line-up of nominees! In recent years there had been 2-3 films nominated for Best Picture that I didn’t really like, so there only being one that I didn’t care for this year is good. While my favorite movie of the year doesn’t seem likely to take home the night’s top prize, I’m happy it’ll likely be going to my second favorite of the nominees.

My Pick: Moonlight
My Prediction: La La Land

Best Director

Nominees (in alphabetical order by movie):

  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Aside from the nomination for Hacksaw Ridge (which I thought was poorly directed, on top of being directed by Mel Gibson…), I think this is a decent line-up. I don’t feel strongly about the nomination for Manchester by the Sea either, though, as I think the movie could have been better with a tighter runtime. So the directors that stand out to me in this category are Denis Villeneuve, Damien Chazelle, and Barry Jenkins; I’d be happy with any of those three winning (but especially Jenkins), though I’m sure it’ll ultimately go to Chazelle.

My Pick: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
My Prediction: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Actor

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

I have some mixed feelings on this category that I don’t want to delve too much into, so I’ll just say I hope Denzel Washington wins his third Oscar! I thought his performance was the best of the nominees, though, for the most part, they all did good work in their respective films. The race seems really tight between Washington and Casey Affleck… I can see either one of them winning, or even canceling each other out and having the Oscar go to Ryan Gosling, as the Academy obviously loves his movie the most. This category will definitely be a nail-biter towards the end of the night.

My Pick: Denzel Washington, Fences
My Prediction: Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Actress

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

This is a tough category, as there were a lot of great performances by actresses this year that didn’t even make the final cut (like Annette Bening in 20th Century Women, Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures, etc.). I will say, though she is no stranger to the Oscars at all, Meryl Streep feels out of place among the nominees, despite giving a good performance as usual. My favorite by far is Natalie Portman in the title role of Jackie, she really exceeded my expectations, and I’m a little disappointed she probably won’t win. And though I don’t think it’s an Oscar-winning performance, I don’t mind too much that the award will likely go to Emma Stone, as the movie really rides on her charisma.

My Pick: Natalie Portman, Jackie
My Prediction: Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

I don’t have a lot of feelings for most of the nominees here, though they all gave good performances. I think Mahershala Ali is miles ahead of the pack with his work in Moonlight, so I hope he wins, though the only major award he’s won is the SAG award (which is a good sign since the same people vote at the Oscars). I can see Dev Patel pulling a bit of an upset for his work in Lion, as the Academy seemed to really like that movie as well.

My Pick: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
My Prediction: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees (in alphabetical order by last name):

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

This is a solid line-up of nominees, though I do think Viola Davis should have been nominated in the lead category (and win there too). This is definitely the most locked up of the acting categories (and probably of all the Oscar categories in general), as Davis has won every other big award leading up to tonight. And I do think she gave the best performance of the nominees, so I’m very much looking forward to her win.

My Pick: Viola Davis, Fences
My Prediction: Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees (in alphabetical order):

  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • The Lobster
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • 20th Century Women

This is one of my favorite Oscar categories, as it usually features smaller films that I love that missed the cut with bigger categories like Best Picture. This year that designation goes to 20th Century Women, which earned its sole Oscar nomination here. I’m also happy to see The Lobster here, probably the most original of the nominees. While I believe La La Land will win just about every award it’s nominated for, I think this is one of the categories it will miss, as the script was probably more of the weakest elements of the film. And aside from possibly Best Actor, this is would be the best place for the Academy to honor Manchester by the Sea, a film which they evidently loved a lot.

My Pick: 20th Century Women
My Prediction: Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees (in alphabetical order):

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hidden Figures
  • Lion
  • Moonlight

At previous award shows, Moonlight was in the other screenplay category and fared well there at most of them, so I think it will most likely win the Oscar here. But I do think it will be a close call with Arrival (another film that earned a lot of love with the Academy but could very well go home empty-handed). I also think Fences is a possibility as it’s based on August Wilson’s critically acclaimed play.

My Pick: Moonlight
My Prediction: Moonlight

And now the rest of my predictions…

  • Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia
  • Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
  • Best Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
  • Best Cinematography: La La Land
  • Best Film Editing: La La Land
  • Best Production Design: La La Land
  • Best Costume Design: Jackie
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
  • Best Original Score: La La Land
  • Best Original Song: “City of Stars” from La La Land
  • Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
  • Best Sound Mixing: La La Land
  • Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
  • Best Animated Short Film: Piper
  • Best Documentary Short Film: Joe’s Violin
  • Best Live Action Short Film: Sing

So like many others, I’m predicting a near-sweep for La La Land, winning 9 of its 14 nominations. I could definitely see it taking another category and winning 10 (matching its number with another Best Picture-winning musical, West Side Story), but I don’t think it will exceed that… but who knows what it’s in store tonight. While it’s nice predicting the way things will turn out, I’d love for there to be a few good surprises too. Either way, this year’s ceremony is bound to be pretty historic, as there will be a few new Oscar records (like Damien Chazelle becoming the youngest Best Director winner, possibly three people of color winning in the acting categories, etc.). Anyway, here’s to a memorable Academy Awards!

2 thoughts on “The 89th Academy Awards: My Picks and Predictions

  1. Reading your post is the first time I’ve known who the Oscar nominees are, and what’s amazing is I have not seen ONE film nominated in those top categories! In fact, the only film I’ve seen at all that’s mentioned in our post is Zootopia! I remember when I used to make it a point to see every Best Picture nominee before the awards show, but nowadays, with cinema prices so high and my interest in new films seemingly waning, I rarely see a recent release anymore, and if I do, it’s usually after it hits my local library. Which is sad, I guess, but…I enjoyed reading about your picks!

    • I can understand that! I have to make a bit of an effort to see EVERY movie nominated in the 8 major categories, as there’s usually a couple that I’d have no interest in seeing otherwise.

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